My top 6 #Back2School items for an allergy kid!

So, Im one of those mums remember? (Eye roll as you see fit). As one of those mums back to school is a little bit harder, and a little bit more stressful. Whether you are new to the allergy / celiac game or an old timer, my list of must haves may help make your life a teeny bit easier. Aili was diagnosed as a baby, not yet 2 years old, now she is over 7, and making sure I have these allergy must haves around is totally routine.

  1. Gluten Free labels! I stick these on all our lunch box containers, these serve as a great reminder for any teacher or other adult approaching my child and hopefully reminds them to not touch my carefully prepared allergy safe meal. These are from Ladybug Labels and they ship internationally. The labels are dishwasher safe and stay on for a long time. Through the years I tried many different brands and these win hands down. The quality is superb and they are easy to peel off and stick. (http://www.ladybuglabels.com)
  2. Name labels. The last thing I need is for my kids to lose anything (they do, anyway obviously, especially my son, lol), but even worse would be their stuff getting mixed up with someone elses. All their lunch gear including cutlery has a name label. Again I tried many different ones from different companies and these are now my go to every year. Delivery is fast and cheap even for international delivery. I always get the plain label, it sticks well, peels off easily and is dishwasher safe. I still have some labels from when my son was 4 that are stuck on! He’s almost 10 now, thats value for money right there! These are from Easy2name and come in lots of different colours. (https://www.easy2name.com)
  3. Good lunch boxes! My kids bring lunch to school every day and I need something that lasts, is good value for money, and works! It needs to be able to keep my kids food hot or cold, and I need to be able to clean it easily as it goes in to a contaminated environment on a daily basis. We now use only Pottery Barn lunch boxes. The kids get to pick a new one every second September, so we have a few, the first ones we ever got are still alive and kicking (!). We use lunch boxes for every day outings as well, so even though the Pottery barn boxes aren’t exactly cheap, the fact that they are practically indestructible makes them value for money. I pop them in the washing machine regularly to clean them and so far, no problems! Pottery Barn also delivers internationally! (http://www.potterybarnkids.com)
  4. Good Thermoses! My son goes through anti cold food phases, especially in winter. Ive tried so many thermoses its unreal, many of the kids ones are actually good, but to small for my growing boy! I also found many are hard to open once the hot food is in and I prefer my kids to be able to open their own containers. Surprisingly, the best food thermoses I have found are the IKEA ones (or maybe not so surprising, it is SWEDISH after all, haha). They are a great size, easy to open, no flimsy silly seals that come off after 5 uses, and best of all, I can wash them in the dishwasher (they do say not to, but I do and so far no problems). As far as affordability goes they are amazing. The food stays nice and hot too which is obviously great as so many thermoses don’t keep their heat well. (http://www.ikea.com)

     

  5. Baby Wipes and hand wipes. Seriously, you cant get enough of these babies! I keep them in every school bag, in every handbag and each kid has some in school. The baby wipes are sometimes on special and you can get a box with it, cover the box in funky stickers and make it non babyish for school. Alco gel is of no use as it does not kill gluten or other allergens, allergens need to be washed / wiped off! You can get wipes in pretty much any shop. Not all wipes are gluten safe! Johnsons contain no gluten.
  6. A good freezer block. Again, I tried so many. Having had my kids in school in Dubai I may have gotten overly paranoid about the whole cooling issue, but unless you are sending a hot lunch you really do need to worry. These allergy / celiac kids are often more sensitive then others, and the last thing we want is to give our kids food poisoning. I have every size and shape imaginable, these ones are firm favourites as they are slimmer then others, come in pretty colours and stay frozen until lunch time even though they are slimmer. I got these particular ones in Jula. (Yup, another Swedish shop!) (http://www.jula.com)

Anyone want to add anything? Is there something you cant live without for sending your allergic or celiac kid to school? Id love to know 🙂

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Not going to “normal school”

Im so tired of all the “knowitalls” and having to defend our daughter not going to school. Its like they think we are keeping her home willy nilly for FUN just because we feel like it.

“She wont thank you for it”, “She needs to be with her friends or she will be socially awkward”, “its not good for them to be home”. The worst ones are the swedes (no offence meant, remember, I am a Swede), because homeschooling is not legal in Sweden they all seem to think of it as something worse then witchcraft and I am obviously damaging my child by not letting her go to school. What the doctors say doesn’t matter. Clearly.

Strange how as an adult its ok to not work and to be long term ill or signed off as disabled, but a child must go to school or you are ruining them for life. I have two words for them all. FUCK OFF. You know nothing. You don’t know us, you don’t know the struggles we face or have faced, you don’t know that your child’s sniffle could mean a lengthy hospital stay for us. You don’t know the amount of thinking, anguish and tears that have gone in to this decision, a decision which was finally taken away from us when the doctors put their foot down and said NO MORE!

We, as a family are having to come to terms with our daughter, our child, possibly never being able to attend what you call “normal” schooling. Nothing you say is news to us. We have taken it all in to consideration. We know how damaging it may be, we know. We have also done our research and we also know that most homeschooled kids are well adjusted awesome human beings. A high school teacher friend of mine said she has never met a previously homeschooled kid who was socially awkward or not up to speed academically.

We are not hippies who don’t believe in education. We are not weirdos who think the system is faulty. We are not deeply religious people who pray all day (maybe we should – perhaps it would help!). We don’t feel the need to carry a sign signed by our doctors (our team of doctors I may add) saying “She is to ILL for school”. We don’t owe you or the world anything. The minute you say you homeschool every Tom, Dick and Harry (and their cousins uncles neighbour) has to have an opinion? I mean seriously? GO AWAY!

Our 6 year old is a well adjusted, friendly, polite, non awkward life and soul of any party. We do not need your advice. Thank you.

Phew. Needed that vent.

And I said the F word. Bite me.

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Yesterday my heart broke a little……

We were sitting in school Celiac kid and me, waiting to pick up big brother. All of a sudden I realised she wont be back there, not just for ages, but ever. The school is building a new building, and if/when she does go back, it wont be there.

Its very different sitting in school knowing you can send her back any time you like because you took her out, just for a bit, to sitting in school knowing she cant go back for a year or 2 because the dr. said so. Even though its what my mummy heart has wanted and thought about for some time, the fact that we now have it on paper just seems so final.

The lumps in my throat got all big and horrible and for a horrible moment I thought I might cry. I didn’t. Thankfully, lucky none of my closer mum friends were there, because if one of them had asked how I was doing the floodgates would have opened.

Im ok, its for the best, and I know that. But there is still this huge sadness inside that soon A’s class wont be her class anymore, it will just be the class that she should have been in if she attended school. As new kids come and go, “her class” wont even know who she is anymore.

Onwards and upwards now with positivity. I am mourning but I should be celebrating, because we may be looking at a year or two with no pneumonias, and maybe even no hospital stays? Thats got to be a good thing, right? A year or two with mummy all to her self, a year or two of doing whatever she wants (within limits obviously). A year or two of me not stressing every time the phone rings (incase its school calling to tell me to come get her quick). A year or two with one on one teaching and learning!!

Bring it on, Im ready (or am I?…)

-Linda

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Orphanages in Poland

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Yesterday I did something that was absolutely heartbreaking but encouraging at the same time.

I visited an orphanage about an hours drive outside of Wroclaw. As a mother, my heart was breaking in to a million little pieces. How can someone just abandon their baby? And even worse, an older child! A child who on some level understands, asks questions and wants to know why? It took me the whole day to try to get back to “normal”. The women who work in the orphanage must all have super powers, many are mothers themselves, and their hearts must be breaking on a daily basis.  They all deserve a medal. On a positive note, I was really surprised at how clean it was, the abundance of toys and happy colours, I had expected the place to be like something out of those pictures you saw from Russia in the 80’s or the pictures coming out of Romania after its fall. Far far from it. The children are well looked after, 51 children, 50 staff. They are in nice clean surroundings that look like a modern nursery or pre school. There are many many kitchens and children are split in to smaller groups for meals and activities with an “auntie”.

I also felt encouraged, because I really think we can help them. By we, I mean my children’s school, the expat community and people around us.

I felt compelled to offer this home my help many months ago, some of the children were at a school event concert and I couldn’t take my eyes of them. Gorgeous beautiful lovely kids, and someone gave them up! I cant adopt them all, but I sure as hell can try to contribute to making their lives easier in any way I can.

I am not rich, I cant do this on my own, but I have a voice and Im able to ask others for help!

There are hundreds of orphanages in Poland, with an estimate of 80 000 children being in care today. Some orphanages are large, like the one I visited, others are smaller family homes. The children in these orphanages are not necessarily orphans per se, some have been given up, some have been taken from their homes by police or social services, others are in state care while parents are in prison. Some parents just cant cope and their children go to stay in an orphanage for a short while before going back home.

Many of the children suffer emotionally, not just from abuse of course, but the older children from knowing that they were given up.

In this particular orphanage children stay on average 6 months to a year. Some however stay only weeks, and one of the longest staying residents stayed 3 years. The orphanage has children from birth up to 12 years old. Once children turn 12, they must go to a youth home. Siblings are kept together as much as possible. Sometimes they get 4 kids from the same family! In other cases they will get a new baby every few years from the same family….. heart breaking, and social services just cant keep up.

Adoption is under strict regulation in Poland. Law states that children put up for adoption must go to Polish families first. If a child is unsuccessful in being adopted in the first year, then the adoption goes global with people from other countries being eligible to adopt. Catholic families have priority, and then Christians (many of the kids adopted internationally are older and already familiar with religion and Polish tradition, so I guess this makes sense for them to do it like this). Children with health problems or developmental delays often end up being adopted to foreign families, as most Polish families simply aren’t interested or cant support a child with special needs.

There are also age restrictions. If you are below 40 you can adopt a baby, but each year after 40 is the age that the child can be, so if you are 42, a child must be minimum 2, if you are 44, minimum 4 etc. You can be 47 and apply to adopt a 5 year old, and they will look at your case, but generally the rules are not broken.

In the orphanage right now, there is a 10 year old boy with his 7 year old sister. They have been there for two years and have been up for adoption this entire time. They must be wondering what is wrong with them that their real mum and dad left them and now no new mummy and daddy want them either. There is also a very small baby with a cleft palate, (given up because of this??) and a newborn baby girl. HEART. BREAKING. 51 children. Fiftyone.

Generally the children WANT to be adopted, a child who is “not ready” to be adopted would never be adopted against his or her will. The match is made in Warsaw in the central adoption place, then the child and new parent meet a few times before everything goes through. Single women can adopt in Poland, but not men.

The orphanage gets a government grant every month, this money must pay wages (fees for speech therapists and special therapies, psychologists etc) as well as bills, water , electricity and so on. They also must buy anything they need with this money. Food, clothes, school equipment and so on. I asked if it was enough, if they ever worried about being able to meet the children’s needs, and the answer was yes. All the time.

Anyway, less of the heart breaking stuff and more of how we can help these kids!

Many church groups and organisations get in touch with orphanages and help them. They receive many many toys and books, sometimes people just show up and drop stuff, other times its sent in the mail. Clothes are needed at times, but at the moment they have what they need. Christmas was recent and apparently people are very generous at that time of year. I also dropped off a ton of clothes and shoes at my visit, thanks to those who helped me collect those.

There are many things that are always needed and rarely get given. I will give you a list in a minute.

I am getting the PTA in my school involved, and Im hoping we will be able to deliver them a monthly food delivery. Non perishables obviously. This should take some pressure off. If you are in Wroclaw and want to help, get in touch using the message function on my facebook page.

Things they need on an ongoing basis are:

  • Underwear (new)
  • Socks (new)
  • Bedding / blankets / towels
  • Nappies
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby toiletries, such as cream for sore bottoms, talcum powder etc
  • Pacifiers (dummies)
  • Washing powder
  • Cleaning products
  • shampoos and soaps for children
  • tooth brushes and toothpaste

then they are slightly short of and would need the following:

  • Dictionaries english / Polish
  • Books for learning in Polish, text books, not blank ones
  • paper for drawing A4
  • Colouring books

They do not currently need any paints, crayons etc, as they are overflowing, they also have more toys then they can store.

For foods they would like:

  • Pastas
  • Rice
  • Beans / lentils / pulses
  • Tinned foods
  • Baby food in jars
  • Baby formula
  • Long life milk
  • Other things that don’t expire to fast can also be added.

If you can help, let me know, I will be going at least once a month, possibly more.

If you want to help the orphanage directly you can, they have a website.

there is also a Facebook page

Do let me know if you can help! Thank You!!

-Linda

(And yes, I asked if they had any Celiac kids, if the answer had been yes I wouldnt have left without them!)

Edit to add: If you are interested in adoption in Poland there will be many steps to go through, adoption is free but there will be some fees involved in the paperwork process. A family is checked thoroughly before being matched with a child. Orphanages have no say in which family adopts a child as they do not deal with the actual adoption process.

1. Wojewódzki Ośrodek Adopcyjny w Warszawie ul. Nowy Zjazd 1 02-018 Warszawa tel. 22 621 10 70 22 622 03 71 22 622 03 72 e-mail: woa.warszawa@mcps.com.pl

2. Krajowy Ośrodek Adopcyjny TPD Krakowskie Przedmieście 6 00 – 325 Warszawa tel. (0-22) 425 46 77, 425 46 88 faks: (0-22) 827 78 13 e-mail: adopcja@tpdzg.org.pl

3. Katolicki Ośrodek Adopcyjny ul. Grochowska 194/196 04-357 Warszawa tel.: (22) 618 92 45 e-mail: katolickiosrodek@interia.pl

Moving time! (again)

What a week!

Friday morning last week we were in Poznan, Friday evening we were in Wroclaw. By Sunday I had somehow magically managed to unpack everything! Then a frantic whizzing from place to place to sort out the school, kennels for dogs for our trip, food shopping, food shopping research (gluten free peeps know exactly what I mean!) etc etc.

We somehow managed to pick a great area for ourselves without ever having visited (thats how we roll, haha). Its great with tons of greenery, kids and barking dogs.

Im not sure what it is with barking dogs here…. if my dogs bark they get told off, but it seems here many people have dogs to deter from break-ins, and a quiet dog sleeping indoors obviously doesn’t deter much, so dogs are left stood in gardens barking. Drives me slightly bonkers, but it is what it is. At least I feel totally warranted to smile smugly at all these dog owners that MY dogs are so well trained and don’t bark.

We found a great little shop that sells organic produce and some freshly baked gluten free goods. I was to scared to get any of the baked stuff because even though the lady assured me it was baked in a gluten free kitchen you just never know. I need my hubby to go and ask her all the tough questions in Polish. But the produce! Gigantic organic apples that tasted like the apples from my childhood, I cant wait for summer when all the locally grown berries will come!

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The shop is called Awokado – delikatesy ekologiczne, they have a facebook page (opens in new window).

Slightly further up the same road there is yet another eko (organic) shop, a family farm and the produce is sold in someones garden! Eko eggs and veggies. Im in HEAVEN 😀

I have yet to find where the shops selling all the breads are hiding, so far its all schar. Im guessing I need to find another delikatessen. In Poznan we found most of the breads in normal supermarkets. Im sure I will find all what we need eventually.

Few more days now then its Dubai time! Cant wait. Also cant wait to come back and for kids to start their new international school where people speak only english. Happy happy happy! 😀

-Linda

 

The question finally came….

‘Mummy, when Im a grown up, will I be able to eat gluten?’

I knew it would probably come, one day, but yet when it did I wasn’t ready. I didn’t expect to feel so sad, I didn’t expect to feel so bloody hurt, for her!

We have had many questions, and statements, and she’s so smart, so clever, she ‘gets it’. ‘Is autinka Celiac like me mummy?’, ‘When big brother was a baby he could eat gluten right?’, ‘I know big brother can eat gluten, just not at home, because we dont want gluten in our house‘. Etc etc etc. So why then did the question surprise me? And why on earth did I feel so sad…?

I don’t miss my relationship with gluten, I haven’t touched it for almost as long as she has, the last time I had it I felt awful, so its no big deal for me. But Im an adult. I got to grow up eating what I wanted. And although she is so amazingly cool with everything right now, I am in mourning for the things she wont ever get to do. She wont get to do the spontaneous pizza at midnight after the cinema, the kebab after the pub, the walking past a greggs the baker and buying a bag of donut holes and scoffing them all in one go, instead, she has to grow up and be careful, always prepared, plan everything, and although we have a great life and we are OK…. its obviously not going to be easy for her growing up, being different in your pre teens and teens is what we all strived NOT to be.

I hope by hanging out with as many Celiacs as we do that she can continue to feel that what she has is as normal as freckles or a wonky toe. I really really hope so. But deep inside I am so sad for her 😦

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Mixing with the gluten kids – No problem!

We have been gluten free for over 2 and a half years now, the house, pretty much as long. We have ALOT of play dates and people over at our house, why? Because its easier. Here Celiac kid can play without supervision (gluten supervision), here, she can put toys in her mouth and touch whatever she wants, and there will be no issue what so ever (as long as people wash their hands as they arrive). I find that mostly, kids are extremely accepting of gluten free. I never tell anyone that the food they are about to eat is gluten free, why would I? You wouldn’t hear the host of a dinner part serving up pasta and saying ‘THIS is pasta made with GLUTEN’ (unless they had intolerant people there). Kids who visit my house generally eat what I serve, often ask for more and never even realise they are eating gluten free. Adults at times will be more hesitant, they take a bite of something and analyse it, like its a wine tasting! Then they look up and utter with surprise ‘its good!’. Like what, they expected us to eat disgusting food? It should be said here that I buy very few ready made gluten free things, I make all food from scratch and we eat a generally healthy diet with only a few processed things thrown in. But still, Im surprised that so many adults seem to think we live on some kind of starvation diet. If I had a dirham or zloty for each time someone asked me ‘but what do you eat??’ Id be very very rich by now. Its simple really. We eat exactly the same as anyone else, only our food is generally healthier (because I read every label and scrutinise it like a scientist), mostly organic, and always gluten free. We eat pasta, pizza, bread, hot dogs, you name it, we eat it. Except maybe liver. We aren’t to keen on liver. Like I said, kids don’t seem to care, they eat and move on.

We had one mum in our school who point blank refused to let her kids eat gluten free. My sons lovely teacher had asked me to bake for the class for their Christmas party so that his sibling would be able to take part in the open day same as the other siblings and mums and dads – the previous party I had ended up holding her standing by the door as there was a gazillion kids running around with cupcakes (poison) in their hands. I was so touched to be asked, what a kind gesture. So of course I went all out. My friend Katinka helped me bake brownies and cupcakes and biscuits and soft cake. The only mum who knew I was baking gluten free was the class rep at the time. She was obviously not happy as she was the one who usually baked. She sent gluten cupcakes for her kids, I overheard her saying at drop off ‘my kids wont be eating any of that stuff’ (meaning gluten free stuff). Talk about judgemental! At the actual party everyone ate, parents, teachers, siblings, kids, not a single person noticed they were eating gluten free! One mum said the brownies were the best she’d ever had!

Im guessing if we had made some kind of announcement about everything being gluten free the reaction would have been different. Kids however, are so awesome. To them, cake is cake, no matter which flour you use! If they ever ask, I explain, and all the kids that come to our house know I make awesome pizza and snacks. I only wish adults were as open minded!

-Linda

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